The Common Fallacy Of Oily Coffee Beans Explained.

by Matthew Kellso October 29, 2015

As I have been trying to determine what blog posts to write, I think back on questions I'm asked or conversations I've had with customers over the years. One of the most common conversations that I have had is with people that love 'dark' roasted coffee. Typically this type of person thinks that oily beans and dark roasts are synonymous. This leads to a perception that bolder coffees are darker roasted or that dark oily beans are perfect for espresso.  I have to say, these views are so widely held, you'd think they were 100% true.  However, they aren't... they're close, but there is more to it than that.

Let's start by talking about oily beans.  Oily beans come from a chemical reaction between the internals of the beans and oxygen.  If a bean is roasted too long where the internal shell cracks and lets out CO2, it will react with Oxygen almost immediately and create that oil.  If they’re roasted a little bit lighter, they’ll still develop a flavor that helps the coffee seem bolder, but not get that reaction.  I like to think that oils on the beans are the goodness of the coffee leaking out.  I avoid it at all costs.  However, if you let the beans we shipped you sit for a couple of weeks, they’ll become oily, because that reaction will eventually happen.  
 
I was a hard core Starbucks guy for years, in fact, Sumatran was my favorite.  At some point, I started to branch out from Starbucks and still appreciate a heavy and earthy bean, but I’d developed a distaste for the oiliness of a bean.  I later learned the primary reason I like Sumatran, was because it could handle being over-roasted better than almost any other bean.  Once I learned this, I branched out to other beans, and honestly, I love all regions of coffee for their unique flavors.  These flavors are lost if you roast your coffee dark.
 
So what if you like bold coffee? Bold coffee is as much a function of brewing as it is the coffee itself.  If you take an over-roasted bean and brew it any which way, it will be bold.  But if you take a light roast coffee and grind it finer (thus increasing the surface area of the beans for extraction) it will be bolder.  Or you can also take that light roast coffee and use more beans to get a bolder flavor.

This leads to my last point of this discussion. You have control over your coffee. Most people brew with a few scoops of beans in a grinder, they fill the coffee pot with water and enjoy the coffee they put in the pot that morning, not thinking through how that process will affect flavor. You're missing out on some of the fun.  You can modulate the flavor profile of your coffee by adjusting the water to bean ratio or adjusting the grind. This can have an enormous impact on flavor, so play with it and make any bean taste the way you want it  If a bean is not bold enough, adjust your ratio and grind finer.  As each person likes different flavors in their cup of coffee each morning, each person can brew a cup of coffee the way they want too. There are always guidelines to brewing, depending on brew method, but if you don't like it, that just means you should change up the way you use the guidelines. 
 

So, what coffee do we recommend?  That depends a lot on you.  If you want advice, hop over to the contact us page, and I'd love to give you personal advice.  However, I believe our Dark Roast Coffees are a great way to get an example of a rich and bold non-oily coffee.

Matthew Kellso
Matthew Kellso


1 Response

Amanda Rutherfoord
Amanda Rutherfoord

January 22, 2017

Hi there! I have Miele fully automatic espresso machine that gets clogged when I grind oily beans. Because of this, I am always buying a light to medium roast coffee bean. I notice, however, that as the bean sits, it becomes more oily. Is there a way to prevent this process? Thank you for your help!

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